Expert Panel : The Creative Design Process

I would love to hear how other floral designers have been successful at encouraging their customers to embrace their creative design process rather than having to make a floral arrangement look like a picture.
Submitted by Brittany Flowers™

Erin of Floret Flower Farm:
The first few seasons working with flowers, I had a number of brides come to me with some really scary requests! Red roses with baby’s breath and badly done pave cubes were pretty common in their magazine tear outs.
My heart sank every time one of these gals came in but I was new, needed the money and went ahead with the events, no matter how badly our styles clashed.
Looking back, this was certainly not the way to build a business that I loved or to grow myself artistically!!!
After finally crashing into a giant heap of burn out, I shifted my approach and things have been fantastic ever since.
I started by making up a ton of gorgeous, seasonally inspired bouquets with material from own my garden. I focused on the kind of arrangements I wanted to be doing all of the time and photographed the heck out of them whenever there was a free moment. My portfolio grew rapidly with work that fed my soul and within a short time I began attracting a whole new type of client.
Now brides seek me out for this natural, romantic, slightly wild look.
It was by stepping out and demonstrating what I thought was beautiful, that transformed the entire thing!

Cori from Moss Fine Floral:
I am very visual in the planning process with my clients. However, I tell them from the first meeting that we will be pulling inspiration from places such as pinterest and wedding blogs but our goal is not to replicate images from a strangers wedding. I explain that we will be creating an inspiration board but telling a story unique to them. I also explain that there will be must have flower types and vessels that we’ve discussed but that I always leave room in the budget when pre-booking flowers so that I can incorporate little surprises that I find at market. This is more exciting for me as a designer and provides room for interesting elements to show face at the event. I find that when working with clients that are looking for locally grown product this is and easy sell. They tend to be more casual in their planning approach and understand that the crop varies from week to week with our unpredictable weather. I do think that building up your brand and your portfolio will bring you the clients that you want to work with and they are naturally more trusting when with a like minded creative.

Cathy from Sprout Flowers:
I think the biggest tool we use to get clients to accept a wider variety of flowers and appreciate innovative and creative design, is letting them watch us design.

My shop is set up so customers can watch us work, and it’s been set up that way since day one. They love seeing new and unusual blooms but are often intimidated by them. But once they see us working with them, or see a new or creative design in progress some of the fear goes away.

People instinctively want what’s safe, to go with the crowd. It’s the primitive response that has kept humans alive. But once they see that someone else is daring to venture out of their comfort zone, they are reassured that it’s safe for them too!

Brandon from Epic Flowers:
There is a famous saying, “build it and they will come” and I hate to sound cliche6, but at our shop this is what we’ve done. The floral gift giving industry has been so homogenized and blah. And a gift shouldn’t be this way. At our shop thinking outside the box and putting that extra zing allows our customers and others know exactly where that design came from. So we do nothing to encourage our customers to embrace our unique designs, they seek us out in a sea of boring shops because a gift should be unique and not a commodity.

Ariella Chezar:
Generally speaking, clients come in two categories; the ones with confidence, and the ones with less. The confident ones hire someone because they like what they’ve seen of their work, and they trust them. They don’t expect their designer to do something exactly like an inspiration picture. The less confident ones also, frequently seem to have less vision. This usually leads to micromanaging. Unfortunately, when a designer get’s micromanaged, it’s similar to clipping ones wings and it inhibits the designer’s freedom to really make something beautiful.

When dealing with the latter, I often will be very direct about it and tell them they just need to trust me. If they still can’t, I suggest we do a mockup (which they pay for!) of whichever item they are feeling anxious about. This is useful both for me and for the client.

Paula Pryke:
The internet has certainly provided the public with a lot more visual evidence and I agree that this in turn has made clients demand more specific designs. I have always had clients that would look through my portfolio and say that they did not see anything they liked! There have always been those who wanted to see something different and so I have had the opportunity to be creative. However I do agree that Bride’s now do often turn up with a picture or pin board of things they like. I think the trick is to look at all their visual evidence and then invite them to see something bespoke that you have made especially for them. Try to take the look that they like and move the design on so you make it your own. It is difficult when they want a Jam Jar of wild flowers or a dome of roses? Trends now are so world-wide that it is very difficult to present something original and different to people. I have always been surprised that despite the huge variety of options on offer in the wedding industry, Brides will often play safe. Presenting samples and ideas is the only way to talk them into a more adventurous design but this comes with added costs?

Robyn from Bare Root Flora:
This is a great question and an issue we face regularly. We work to communicate to our clients that we are in the business of creating original art and that we want to design something special and unique for their event rather than replicate someone else’s design. So we really try to steer our clients away from one particular picture and toward an overall design aesthetic. We use their photo(s) as a starting point for a discussion so that we know we’re achieving the look they want but then offer ways to take the design in a different direction or to the next level. That way the end result has our design stamp on it and, more importantly, truly reflects the client’s taste and story. In many ways, it boils down to establishing a real sense of trust with the client so they know we understand exactly the look they want and they have every confidence in us to achieve it.

pink peony bridal bouquet

Bouquet designed by Cori of Moss Fine Floral.

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  1. Thank for another great post. As a designer it is so important to grow and learn everyday. Great idea from Erin to show clients what YOU want to make. From Cori; something I do too, is to leave room to add in a little something special for a surprise. And from Ariella, “clipping one’s wings” rings so true for me, especially in the early days of a business, when you take every job, even if it is not the right fit. Thank you experts for sharing your advice, so appreciated.